We are back! Archaeology and media



Summer is ending and the AELAW blog is back. The next months will be very intense, with a lot of events and activities of the members of the network, and the blog will keep you informed with all the news. For the moment and as an appetizer, we are “back to school” with this collection of archaeological news that has happened during the summer and how the media has treated them.

Usually, these months give little news about politics and society and even sports competitions are not enough to fill all the pages of newspapers. Summer is also when most archaeological campaigns take place, so it is the moment when the media pay attention to these issues, an interest that will not be repeated ... until the following year. For example, while the World Cup was playing and Spain was doing so badly in football, the country received good news with the declaration of Medina Azahara as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. The declaration is well deserved and was mentioned by numerous Spanish and international media, given the importance and spectacular nature of Medina Azahara, a palatial city of medieval times that served for a time as the capital of Islamic Al-Andalus.

Of course, archaeological campaigns have left very interesting news: the excavations in Complutum, near Madrid, are revealing a first order site. In León, remains of the praetorium of the Legio VII Gemina have been discovered. In north-eastern Spain, one Iberian city has been found in Catalonia and the newspaper that tells the story doesn´t seem very happy about it, as the first line of the article says: “Another Iberian city...” as if these cities appear everyday like mushrooms. Also in July the newspapers were very enthusiastic with one of the findings that took place in Los Bañales: a golden amulet with the shape of a penis! There were other objects found, but the headlines only focused in this particular object. In the south, excavations in Jaén and Cádiz stand out. But the big discovery of the summer, also with a great echo in the media came from Baelo Claudia, just in the Strait of Gibraltar. A funerary inscription in bronze, of a type unique in Western Europe, and dedicated to Iunia Rufina, a woman whose name has now passed to posterity two thousand years later.

Archaeologists have not been quiet in Italy either. The National Geographic magazine has been publishing advances of the finds near Rome, with a bit spectacular headlines and not less spectacular high quality photos. Also this summer there has been some archaeological news in Sicily, where the collaborations between the University of Messina and the University of Oxford, with the presence of our group member Jonathan Prag, have found the rests of an ancient theatre in the sanctuary of Halaesa. But undoubtedly, the jewel in the crown of European archaeology is still Pompeii. The Mediterranean city continues to give incredible surprises, from the discovery of new and well preserved electoral graffiti to a fresco of the Roman god Priapus that, as expected, caught the attention of journalists.

Pompeii is one of the recurrent sources of archaeological news. But the other one is Egypt. As every year, the media publish the new findings, retrieve stories or try to give their peculiar touch to news from the exotic land of the pharaohs. Sometimes the interest moves further east, like this news about a Mongol tomb tried to connect it with Gengis Khan’s empire.

There is also space for curious news. The heat wave that hit the United Kingdom this year had an unexpected positive effect: the drought has made it possible to locate a number of protohistoric structures through aerial photos. Also from the United Kingdom comes the funny new of the exhibition in the British Museum of a Bansky joke, which imitated (without too much effort) a piece of prehistoric art and that the museum had taken as good. In Spain, a singer walking through the countryside found by chance a second century AD. Roman bust near Seville. And if we are looking for curious, weird or surreal news, social networks always come to our aid: a fake campaign to tear down the Roman aqueduct of Segovia ended up receiving unexpected attention. For everyone's calm (and especially the inhabitants of Segovia) everything has been a joke.

Summer ended with sad news: the fire at the Brazil’s National Museum in Rio de Janeiro has meant the loss of a good number of archaeological treasures, especially from the pre-Columbian period. An unfortunate reminder of how fragile and unrecoverable is the heritage.